Character Analysis : Nanami Kento
My personal interpretation of Nanami Kento’s character development and growth in Jujutsu Kaisen.
The cliche essence of a Salaryman within anime and manga is a trope that is either used as a gag or to exemplify the seriousness of certain characters or arcs within a story. Nanami Kento is the Salaryman of Jujutsu Kaisen, however Akutami does well to create a character who rejects the professional life of a Salaryman while still exuding that cliche serious tone. Even his ability is based around the concept of clocking in and out of work, giving him the iconic “Overtime” monichar because he gets stronger once he goes over a certain clock out time. This makes him fun to see narratively when interacting with villains but shows his confidence and willingness to complete a job. Nanami’s character did not start with such dedication as a jujutsu sorcerer, and showing how he arrived to that change is where we get the true weight of Nanami’s mentality, viewpoints, and importance within Jujutsu Kaisen.
Introduced in the “Vs. Mahito” or “Junpei” arc, Nanami is the first Sorcerer outside of Gojo to take Yuji under his wing. Initially, Nanami makes it a point to let Yuji know he does not consider him a Jujutsu Sorcerer. Instantly we get the seriousness of Nanami’s character and what he believes qualifies as a Jujutsu Sorcerer. Specifically, Nanami mentions to Yuji that he found Jujutsu Sorcerers to be idiots, and that working in an office was also idiotic so he decided to pick the lesser of two evils. Initially, the audience has no specific information on Nanami’s background which sparks an interest in Nanami’s mentality. Why is it that he finds exorcising curses to be a lesser evil than working long hours in an office? What is it about being in an office that is so adverse to Nanami that he would rather spend his time risking his life killing supernatural entities who personify the negativity of the world? Yuji himself picks up on this but neglects to ask. This is clearly Akutami wanting to show diversity in the philosophy of Jujutsu Sorcerers through Nanami while also giving Yuji a new mentor.
To Focus on my point regarding Nanami’s adverseness to working in an office, it is imperative to pay attention to Nanami’s clash with Mahito’s Domain Expansion. In those moments we get Nanami’s flashback on his life before he went back to being a Jujutsu Sorcerer. His life as a Salaryman was one he loathed. It was a path that Nanami took because he saw good money in it. That begs the question however of why. In chapter 30 Nanami flashes back to the bakery with the young lady at the counter asking him if he liked the bread and he notices she has a Flyhead curse on her shoulder. Nanami ignores it because he didn’t want to come off as a “weirdo exorcist” and proceeds to his daily life at the office being antagonized by his boss to loosen up and get more sales because he is smart. However these are background moments for Nanami, and he thinks to himself “I’ve never been the type of guy to worry about the meaning of life or his purpose on earth, I’ll make enough money to retire.” in a way to keep his mind focused on his goals and to proceed forward. He continues to say to himself “I don’t need to deal with curses or people as long as I have money, money, money,” repeatedly saying money until he falls asleep. He then thinks to deeper saying “Jujutsu Sorcerers are trash. You have to force your comrades to accept the notion that they must willingly sacrifice their lives. That’s why I quit. More like ran away, I suppose”.
This entire monologue speaks on who Nanami was without him saying specific about what was affecting him. He vehemently does not want to deal with curses or people because he has already felt loss before but more on that later. Continuing his flashback Nanami sees himself back at the bakery and sees the young girl is tired due to the curse. He tells the Bakery Girl how unimportant his position as a Salaryman is in comparison to hers but he still makes more money. She accuses him of bragging but he asks her to step forward and he expels the Flyhead curse on her shoulder. Nanami walks out and she yells thanking him because she instantly felt relief, but Nanami does not answer and he thinks to himself “I always thought having a purpose in life had nothing to do with me”. Having this flashback right before his “death”, Nanami remicnices on why he decided to pick the lesser of his two evils and he felt he had no regrets, a contradiction for Jujutsu Sorcerers.
What brings Nanami’s character to the forefront is his reasoning for leaving the Jujutsu School to begin with. Yes, being a Jujutsu Sorcerer is literally hell on earth but with Nanami we know he lost someone specific, Haibara. The lost of a friend as a young Jujutsu Sorcerer is life changing and over the years it became too much for Nanami to handle so his defense mechanism was to leave in hopes to establish a regular life far away from people and curses alike. It all makes sense because where there are people there will always be curses.
Astoundingly, Nanami has grown from that. He believes it now makes more sense to fight for the common people against the evil of the world no matter how idiotic it is, because they have the ability to. Nanami is a passionate and generous person even if he tries to act like he isn’t , i.e his fight against Mahito the first time. Nanami is a very matter of fact character, who won’t lie or hide his true intentions with those he cares about. Personally, I believe he is one of the most human characters in Jujutsu Kaisen. Nanami battled with the struggle of purpose in life without trying to. He wanted to escape and be where he could have control of the things around him but that was impossible because his true nature was that of kindness and generosity. Nanami became attached to Yuji due to his empathy for the deaths of those he does not know. He can see that this young man knows there is cost and weight to the things they do as Jujutsu Sorcerers. When acknowledging Yuji as a Jujutsu Sorcerer, Nanami does it subtly, calling him one after discussing how exhausting it will be trying to help everyone die a “natural death”. He reminds Yuji that he’ll be needed to save people’s lives in the future much like he had his own.
Nanami Kento is a one of a kind character Salaryman. He is one that does not feel holiness or empowerment from what he does as a Jujutsu Sorcerer but feels like he is doing the best of what he can. He is the embodiment of Yuji’s start as a Jujutsu Sorcerer but he is also the audiences first look into how distinct each of the the Jujutsu Sorcerers are. It is amazing that Akutami can show a character with a negative connotation on being a Jujutsu Sorcerer while doing the job without nefarious intentions. It is refreshing to see a character of Nanami’s nature and how he impacts the future of the series.